ghost towns of Oregon

The last few days of my Spring Break from school I went on a mini day road trip with some friends and former co-workers. We ventured off east to the Dalles and south bound in search for ghost towns in Wasco County.

The first stop happened after driving for two hours in the rain towards the Dalles and heading south on 197. Suddenly we were overwhelmed by the sun and was greeted by this spectacular view. We had to get out and take pictures.

The first actual town we came upon was Maupin, a small community which attracts tourists for their river rapids in the summer. We were in the off season and it was eerie and quiet, at least for this city girl. We were tickled when a tumble weed greeting us, my friends and I took it as a  sign to pull over and look for lunch. In front of our parking spot was a dead skunk, which I think made us all a little sad.  The town seemed to be about 5 square blocks in diameter with more than average amount of tow trucks parked on the street with an actual car on it’s tow. I found the dude on a four wheeler towing a ride a mower through downtown.

Very few people were found walking the streets. My friends asked the first person we saw if they could recommend a convenience store for snacks. The store he suggested turned out to be a deli which served a mixture of fried food, burgers and sandwiches.  I had myself one of the more tasty vegetarian sandwiches, I was impressed with the freshness of the veggies. The fried food my friends ordered wasn’t too bad either. We got some beverages and hit the road again. With the tumble weed in tow, wedged in one of the passenger windows.

The next few hours were quiet, winding roads with not much scenery to viewt. My passengers were slipping in and out of sleep as I weaved through the empty roads. Out of nowhere, rain and then hail would hit the wind shield and as fast as it arrived it stopped.

Our first ghost town was in Shaniko, OR. Apparently in the turn of the 20th century Shaniko and Portland were the only two towns which received goods for people to purchase. It was the wool capital of the west coast and not a railroad town. In the mid 1960’s the town was flooded which caused the abandonment. There was cute old shacks to walk in. The hotel which looked amazing was for sale.

We were overwhelmed by the temperature. Driving around in the sun had been deceiving. While we were sweating in the car, we were freezing outside. I guess we were high altitude which caused the freezing temps, which would explain why we saw occasional patches of snow off the side of the road.  Most of the trip involved driving through the vast nothingness and every hour or so we would find a small town that was on the map. It would be less than 500 people, but there as hardly anything between them.  The sun was baking us in the car. Out of nowhere there would be a patch of snow, which scared me, as silly as that sounds. There was hardly any traffic while driving, so pulling over for scenic shots was easy to maneuver. The electric power lines were pleading for their picture to be taken.

One of the last ghost towns we stopped in was Lone Rock. It was 20 miles away from Condon, where we had dinner at a small diner. Again, we found ourselves surrounded by nothing. But this time we were clearly on a hill and the only road as far as the eye could see either direction on our views out the window. We did see some odd cloud formations off to the distance, it looked like rain how the clouds where vertical, shooting downward from the sky. I was overwhelmed by the beauty. I think I said, I felt it was blasphemous for their to be a paved road where we were. Like, could we just leave some land untouched by humans and keep it sacred? Not 5 minutes after I said this, the pavement ended, and I found myself driving down hill on a windy dusty gravel road with 5 miles left before we hit the destination. To add to my anxiety, one of the passengers announced she had to pee.

Lone Rock was just another small town in the middle of nowhere. I wouldn’t call it a ghost town because people were clearly living there. I would guess about 100 or so residents. I pulled up in front of the church, and we could clearly see several huge rocks. Not quite sure why the town in got its name because there were clearly more than a lone rock. The outhouse was found to be functional. And the view picturesque. Neighboring the church was a small farm where the goats were friendly and happy to greet us. My friends returned the sentiment and petted the most outgoing one.

I wanted to continue further, but it was getting late and the car started to get low on gas. Being that there were not many gas stations out where we were and cell phone reception was nit reliable, we took the safe route back. On our way back to the main high way, there were many wind power mills for miles and miles. They were mesmerizing to watch.


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